People whose work requires heavy lifting, frequent exposure to vibration, and routine repetition of the same movements are significantly more likely than others to develop shoulder problems 20 years later in life. The finding is the result of recent research published in the medical journal Annals of Rheumatic Disease.
Participants involved in this study were a representative sample of the Finnish population who were 30 years of age or older at the onset of data gathering, and who joined the study between 1977 and 1980. None of those participants could be diagnosed with shoulder problems at the beginning of the survey. Researchers followed up with the participants 20 years later and determined that 7% suffered persistent shoulder problems. By studying the physical demands of their work life over the intervening 20 years, researchers found that participants whose work had subjected them to frequent vibration and repetitive movements were more than twice as likely as their peers to suffer shoulder disorders. Having more than one risk factor compounded the likelihood of chronic injury.
Researchers noted that the accumulation of shoulder tissue damage became clearly evident many years after exposure had ceased. While men were most likely to suffer long-term shoulder damage when exposed to vibration and repetitive movement, women were more likely to suffer similar injuries when exposed to frequently awkward working positions and routine heavy lifting.
Authors of the study advise that early preventive measures in the workplace are likely to have long-lasting health benefits for the shoulders of those workers whose jobs put them at increased risk.
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